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S.L. County wants to cut property-tax valuation appeals

Salt Lake County is trying to reduce the number of residents who appeal their property tax valuations.

About 280,000 pieces of property are appraised each year in Salt Lake County. About 10,000 people annually appeal their valuations as overly high.Tax time is tough for residents who open their valuations and find the tax man thinks their house is worth twice as much as the year before.

Salt Lake County Assessor Lee Gardner said the problems are often due not to a disagreement on how much something like a porch or garage is worth, but factual errors such as the size of a particular building. He said he's working to make it easier for such problems to be resolved informally.

"I am committed to reducing the amount of heartburn connected with the appeal system," he said.

Among the "dramatic changes" in the assessor's office is the following approach to appraisal: spend more time reviewing properties when they are initially appealed, review all properties appealed more than once in three years, apply solutions to future valuations, and make information more easily accessible.

Residents can review valuation information at the assessor's office, in the county library system and through the county's Internet Web page (

Gardner is also attempting to streamline the appraisal process by assigning appraisers to specific geographic areas who will handle the entire process from start to finish (much like the ballyhooed Saturn automobile "team building" system).

"We expect that we will get better quality assessments, friendlier office assistance and greater efficiency," he said.

While the newly efficient system will handle clerical problems better, it won't do anything for skyrocketing property values. Utah continues to be a popular place to live, with rising property values to match, and state law requires annual revaluation to reflect market value.

The Legislature has considered various options for reforming substantive property tax valuation in its session this year, including changing the state constitution to eliminate the requirement that property tax be proportionate to the property's value.